10 Inventors Who Were Killed By Their Own Inventions

When we try out something new there is always a risk lurking around the corner. Sometimes these risks can prove to be fatal as was the case for some inventors. The creation of these inventors proved to be their ultimate downfall. But they will always be remembered in history as they contributed to the progress of all mankind before losing their lives. Here is our list of ten inventors killed by their own inventions.

1. Sylvester H. Roper

Roper invented the eponymous steam-powered bicycle and died in a crash during one of its early speed trials.

Sylvester H. Roper
Image Source: wikipedia.org

American inventor, Sylvester Howard Roper, was a pioneering builder of early automobiles and motorcycles. He also invented the shotgun choke and a revolver repeating shotgun. Among his other inventions are the hand stitch sewing machine and a hot air engine. In 2002 he was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. This honor was bestowed upon him for inventing the Roper steam velocipede.

Unfortunately, the velocipede became the cause of his death. On June 1, 1896, Roper rode one of his later velocipede models. He rode on the Charles River bicycle track, near Harvard Bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He made several laps and left behind many bicyclists including the professional rider Tom Butler. Roper was clocked at two minutes 1.4 seconds for the flying mile, with a top speed forty miles-per-hour (sixty-four kilometers-per-hour). But suddenly he wobbled and then fell on the track suffering a head wound and was found dead. After an autopsy, the cause of death was found to be heart failure. It is unknown if the crash was the cause of the stress on his heart, or if his heart failed prior to the crash.(source)

2. Franz Reichelt

Reichelt invented the coat parachute and died while attempting to fly with the parachute.

Franz Reichelt, sometimes referred to as the “Flying Tailor”, was a French tailor, inventor, and parachuting pioneer. He wanted to develop a suit for aviators that would convert into a parachute. This would help the aviators to land safely in case they were forced to jump out of their plane. So, he created an outfit which contained a parachute of his own design attached to it. Initially, Reichelt experimented with dummies dropped from the fifth floor of his apartment building. These experiments all proved to be successful. But none of his subsequent designs could repeat the same success. Reichelt believed that the lack of a suitably high test platform was partially to blame for his failures.

So, he started petitioning the police for permission to conduct a test on Eiffel Tower. Finally he was granted permission in early 1912. On 4 February 1912 he arrived at the tower intending to jump himself instead of using a dummy for the test. Despite attempts by his friends and spectators to convince him to reconsider, he went on the first platform of the Eiffel Tower. There he donned the parachute suit and jumped. Unfortunately, the parachute failed to deploy. He crashed into the icy ground at the foot of the tower and was killed instantaneously.(source)

3. Karel Soucek

Karel Soucek developed a shock-absorbent barrel. He died following a demonstration involving the barrel being dropped from the roof of the Houston Astrodome.

Karel Soucek was a Canadian professional stuntman. He is known for his daredevil stunt in 1984 when he went over Niagara Falls in a barrel. To perform this stunt he created a custom-made barrel which was nine feet long and ive feet in diameter. It was bright red and bore the words, “Last of the Niagara Daredevils – 1984”. On July 2, 1984 Soucek went inside the barrel and then it was rolled into Niagra River 1000 feet above the cataract of Niagra Falls. Soucek survived the fall but when he came out he was bleeding. The stunt made him quite popular and he decided to build a museum displaying his stunting paraphernalia.

To finance the project he decided to perform a barrel drop of 180 feet from the top of the Houston Astrodome into a tank of water. On January 19, 1985, Soucek enclosed himself in the barrel 180 feet above the floor of the Astrodome. The barrel was released prematurely and began spinning as it fell toward the floor. Due to the rough start the barrel hit the rim instead of landing in the center of the tank of water. The mishap gravely injured Soucek. His chest and abdomen were crushed and his skull was fractured. He died in the hospital while the stunt show was still going on.(source)

4. Horace Lawson Hunley

Hunley invented the first combat submarine. He died during a trial of his vessel.

Horace Lawson Hunley
Image Source: 1,2

Horace Lawson Hunley was a Confederate marine engineer during the American Civil War. He developed early, hand-powered submarines. He was successful in developing a submarine after two  unsuccessful attempts. One of his most famous submarines was posthumously named after him, H. L. Hunley.

On October 15, 1863, Hunley decided to take command of the submarine during a routine exercise. The vessel sank and all eight crew members were killed including Hunley himself. He was buried with full military honors at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 8, 1863.(source)

5. Marie Curie

Curie invented a method which led to the discovery of the radioactive elements radium and polonium. She died of aplastic anemia due to prolonged exposure to radiation emanating from her research materials.

Marie Curie
Image Source: dxschool.org

Marie Skłodowska Curie was a physicist and chemist, well known for being the first woman to win a Nobel prize. She is also the only woman to win it twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. Her achievements included the development of the theory of radioactivity and techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. She also discovered two elements, polonium and radium.

During the course of her research, she carried test tubes of radium in her pockets and was thus exposed to radiation. Due to the radiation, she developed aplastic anemia and died in 1934 at the age of sixty-six. Even today her papers from 1890s and even her cookbook are considered too dangerous to handle. This is because of their levels of radioactive contamination. These papers are currently kept in lead-lined boxes. Those who wish to consult them are required to wear protective clothing before handling them.(source)

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